There’s a sucker born every minute.
The crazy story of Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis organization and their ambitious plans keeps getting stranger and stranger. Just a few weeks ago, Ham crowed about having a real Allosaurus skeleton (nicknamed Ebenezer) on display in his Creation “Museum”—a sad loss of an important specimen to science. Not only will it have no sound scientific data to accompany it, but instead it’s going to have the weird pseudoscience of creationist “flood geology” used to interpret it, and provides the creationists with something to brag about. The Creation “Museum” is having their resident “flood geologist” Andrew Snelling study the specimen—even though he doesn’t have any training in paleontology, doesn’t know one bone from another, and obtained his only legitimate training in uranium geology. As blogger Artiofab discovered, the collection was done on a ranch in Colorado by a bunch of creationist students and home-schoolers, and no one with legitimate training in paleontology, taphonomy or sedimentary geology involved or collecting proper data—just “flood geologists” with their distorted view of the geologic record.
As you can see from photographs of Ebenezer, this specimen no longer has its original preservation; each skeletal element has been prepared out of matrix, presumably during the more than ten years that its private owners had access to it. Have samples of the matrix been saved for future geochemical work on the depositional environment of Ebenezer? If not, then this data is gone, and Ebenezer is devoid of environmental data.Without information from the Creation “Museum”, I have no way of knowing how data-deficient Ebenezer is. Ebenezer could have field notes, photographs of the excavation, and rock matrix samples stored away somewhere. If Ebenezer has these things, then Ebenezer is useful to science. If Ebenezer does not, then Ebenezer is useless scientifically.
Even sadder, the specimen was bought with the backing of Michael Peroutka and the Peroutka Foundation, a notorious racist white supremacist organization, which Ham has not repudiated. Instead, it feeds Ham’s excessive “dino envy”. In Ham’s own words:
While evolutionists use dinosaurs more than anything to promote their worldview, especially to young students, our museum uses dinosaurs to help tell the account of history according to the Bible.For decades I’ve walked through many leading secular museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and have seen their impressive dinosaur skeletons, but they were used for evolution. Now we have one of that class for our museum, and it will help us defend the book of Genesis and expose the scientific problems with evolution.
Back in 2010, Ham promised to build a huge $172 million “Ark Encounter” theme park (complete with a full-sized ark replica) in Williamstown, Kentucky, near his Creation “Museum”. Ham managed to get the Commonwealth of Kentucky to promise $40 million in tax incentives, $2 in new roads to reach this remote location, and he got the city of Williamstown to commit to $62 million in municipal bonds for his project, plus a 75% property tax break. Altogether, Ham got various public entities to commit over $100 million in taxpayers’ dollars to aid his supposedly $172 million investment in the Ark Park. But that’s not the whole story. As reported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
It seems Ham’s ever-changing timeline has finally caught up with him. He said in January 2011 that work would begin on the Ark Park that spring; then in May of that year, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer; in June, AiG said construction would begin in August; and by early August 2011, AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months. Then in late August 2011, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either. Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet came with one little catch: an expiration date. The agreement says that AiG can receive a 25 percent tax rebate on the cost of construction once the park opens, provided construction began by May 2014. The discount would be capped at $43 million. Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, told LEO Weekly that Ark Encounter quietly withdrew its old application for a $172 million project on March 28 and instead submitted a $73 million proposal. If that application is approved, and if it is built within the allotted timeframe, that would mean AiG is eligible for $18.25 million in tax incentives, LEO Weekly said. But the shrinking tax package doesn’t appear to be Ham’s only problem. In April, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the local road improvements needed to handle all the traffic that will supposedly rush to Ark Encounter (if it ever opens) will be pushed back to 2017. That’s a bit of a problem for Ham, who last claimed that the park would open in the summer of 2016. Perhaps he wants park visitors to have an authentic Bible experience by walking or riding camels to see the ark. There is also some mystery surrounding the $62 million in municipal bonds that supposedly rescued Ham’s project. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January that while $26.5 million in bonds had been sold, the city needed to sell an additional $29 million by Feb. 6 or else those who already bought bonds would be able to collect on their investment immediately. The city would not say exactly how much money was raised, the Courier-Journal reported in late February, but AiG’s website claims the bonds actually yielded $73 million. AiG also claims it has raised $15 million on its own. Despite these setbacks, Ham presses on. His latest ploy appears to be keeping up the hoax that the Ark Park is under construction. In February, he said groundbreaking would begin in May. On May 1, AiG hosted a “groundbreaking ceremony” at the site where the park is supposed to be built, but the “groundbreaking” consisted of a handful of men in suits using wooden mallets to hammer wooden pegs into wooden boards. This all took place inside an auditorium, which doesn’t look much like a theme park. (You can watch this exciting video here, but be warned – it’s over 40 minutes long.) It is now June, and it remains unclear whether or not construction has actually started on Ark Encounter. AiG’s website says its “construction management team” is still soliciting bids from contractors, suggesting that no real progress will be made anytime soon. Misguided Kentucky lawmakers promised Ham piles of cash starting in 2010 because they believed Ark Encounter would eventually bring in tourists and create jobs. It’s been almost four years, and AiG hasn’t generated a single dollar or job for Kentucky. Ham will surely keep his con going for as long as he can, but Kentucky has no reason to stick with this sinking ship. In February Ham proclaimed, “Let’s build the ark.” Let him build it if he can, but with money AiG raises on its own. It’s long past time for Kentucky to pull the plug on this boat to nowhere, and we hope it finally will.
So the strange saga of the Ark Park continues. Back when it was launched, grandiose and extravagant promises were made, and they set and bragged about impossible fundraising goals. But late last year it came out that Ham and his organization were losing money at the Creation “Museum” (thanks to sagging attendance after 5 years) and using junk bonds to make the financing work. Then they bragged that the debate with Bill Nye had helped them raise the necessary money—but there has been no independent accounting to see what this financial house of cards really has in assets. Now the groundbreaking has been postponed indefinitely—and it looks like it will never happen at all. Meanwhile, Kentucky may soon be off the hook, since Ham’s group missed the May 31 deadline for groundbreaking to allow them to receive state tax breaks and infrastructure. I’m sure the con man Ham will continue to lead people on, but since his junk bonds have no guarantees, all the investors will be stuck with nothing. However, if he does have a lot of his financing tied to mortgaging his Creation “Museum,” it could bring the whole house of cards crashing down.Whatever the true financial strength of Answers in Genesis, the Ark Park is dead in the water and sinking fast.